- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 10, 2002

NEW YORK A U.S. official said yesterday that he expects to find before a Monday deadline enough U.N. Security Council votes to exempt most U.S. soldiers from prosecution by the new International Criminal Court.

Previous U.S. drafts have alienated council members, all but two of them signatories to the new war-crimes tribunal. But U.S. officials say they are making steady progress by incrementally scaling back their demands and aggressively working the hallways and capitals.

"We'll have nine by Monday," said Richard Williamson, political adviser to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, referring to the number of votes necessary for a council resolution to pass. There are 15 countries on the council, and five of them have veto power.

American officials say they have the support of all the permanent council members except France, which is widely expected to abstain rather than use its veto to block the U.S. resolution.

Russia and China, which share U.S. reservations about the court, have committed to supporting the U.S. position in principle, and Britain has expressed a willingness to find a "painful compromise" rather than see international peacekeeping missions aborted.

The United States must also secure "yes" votes from five of the 10 elected council members, most of which have opposed the American position. Mexico is coming under heavy pressure from the United States.

Several council delegates were uncertain whether a deal could be reached, saying that during a daylong council meeting today, it would become more clear whether any nations have changed their positions.

More than three dozen countries have signed up to talk about the ICC and peacekeeping at the open session, where diplomats are expected to overwhelmingly criticize the U.S. position.

The United States stunned its allies last week when it vetoed the routine extension of a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, demanding that American troops be protected from prosecution by the new global war-crimes court.

It has since agreed to two brief extensions, the latest ending Monday, to permit negotiations with other council members on a compromise.

The Bush administration hopes to insert language into a resolution extending the Bosnia mission that would guarantee governments "exclusive" jurisdiction over their civilian and military peacekeeping personnel. All such efforts have met with stiff resistance from other countries, most of which support the court and fear that its authority will be undermined.

But diplomats say the Bush administration's implicit threat to withdraw U.S. peackeepers, scale back payments to the world body or even kill the 15 U.N. peacekeeping missions as they come up for renewal has been persuasive.

Singapore, which has close ties to the United States and has not signed the treaty creating the court, is thought to be the most receptive among the 10 elected council members to the American text.

Other members that might be flexible include Colombia, which has deep military and economic ties to the United States; Mauritius, which owes its council seat to U.S. intervention in a contentious African election; and Bulgaria, which astounded council members by halfheartedly abstaining from an earlier anti-ICC vote.

Mexican Ambassador Adolfo Zinser said yesterday that his government firmly favored "maintaining the integrity of the court." But diplomats say that, like Canada, Mexico must choose its battles carefully. U.S. diplomats say President Bush is prepared to call Mexican President Vicente Fox, if necessary, to secure a "yes."

The International Criminal Court went into effect July 1 and has 139 signatories. Of those, 76 have ratified the treaty, including the European Union, all of Latin America and much of Africa.

Six council members have ratified, severely limiting how much anti-ICC language they can accept.

Defenders of the court are expected to make their case at length today during a daylong Security Council debate on the ICC and peacekeeping. At least three dozen governments are expected to speak, nearly all of them opposed to exempting peacekeepers from the court.

Americans expect a day of U.S.-bashing but say it won't affect their position.

"It's a chance to state our case and listen to the others," said Mr. Williamson, who added that Washington might put forward a new draft tomorrow.

Several U.S. and foreign diplomats said the key to the U.S. effort is Britain, which both sides are lobbying strongly. A council diplomat said Britain, among other countries, was prepared to provide the ninth vote if the United States can secure the other eight.

Washington appears to have abandoned a widely criticized resolution that would have guaranteed immunity for participants in any military action created or endorsed by the council.

Council diplomats who were adamant in their opposition to the U.S. effort have become more flexible since Washington threatened to block extending each of the 15 peacekeeping missions.

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